USMNT January camp roster notes

The roster for the USMNT’s January training camp was released on Friday. All but one of the 26 names hail from MLS (Mix Diskerud being the one exception), with ten players having played in the World Cup Qualifying cycle just completed, but with nine players yet to appear for the senior side. This year’s camp will split time between California and Brazil, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks to begin simulating tournament conditions for his players, and the camp will conclude with a friendly against the Korea Republic on February 1 (5:00 p.m., ESPN2, WatchESPN and UniMas).

Defense: Positions of need

The U.S. squad as developed by Klinsmann in the past 18 months is quite deep, with multiple options in most positions. The defense, however, could certainly be improved, and that’s where the majority of the new faces play. At fullback, both DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans have done quite well, with Beasley in particular impressing in a late-career renaissance. But the fact remains that neither are defenders by trade. If Steve Cherundolo regains form and fitness in time for the Cup, he might be the answer at right back, but no one not named Beasley has looked good on the left. Now, several young players are getting a shot to impress.

On the left, Klinsmann has brought in Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), and Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City). Beasley’s not present, so one of these guys, at least, is going to get his shot.

On the right, DeAndre Yedlin and Chance Myers have both been included. Yedlin started the MLS season in very strong form, but tailed off much like his entire Seattle team. Myers, of course, won MLS Cup with Kansas City. While both players can make decent claims for their inclusion, Sheanon Williams had a better season than either of them, especially going forward, and has reason to feel snubbed.

In the center, both the presumed starters, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, are in camp, along with Clay Goodson, so it looks more like refinement over revolution there. Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), though, is also in camp, having featured for the U.S. at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Again, the Union faithful may have reason to feel aggrieved, as Amobi Okugo has grown into a powerful central defender, and surely deserves a chance. Perhaps Klinsmann still views him as a midfielder, where the U.S. is fairly stacked, and where Okugo has not played for more than a year.

Midfield: Red Bulls and rewards

The new faces in midfield are Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty of NYRB, Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), and Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC). While Union fans won’t care for the New York connections, both Red Bull middies have performed well this year. Gil and Feilhaber were both important cogs in getting their teams to the MLS Cup. Gil is surely a player for the future. Feilhaber, his Gold Cup gamewinner aside, has consistently failed to inspire with the national team, but now has one more chance.

Forwards: Mike Magee, Mike Magee, Mike Magee

The big story here is the inclusion of Mike Magee. Magee’s season was just too good to be denied, and he finally gets his shot with the national team. It may be too late, of course, what with players like Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson already looking like locks, but perhaps Eddie Johnson’s recent ambivalent national-team form, combined with his off-field attitude issues have loosened his place in the team. If Magee outperforms Johnson in January, he might sneak a spot.

Who’s it gonna be?

Last year, Matt Besler had never played for the U.S. before being called into the January camp. Now? He’s probably a World Cup starter. Someone new from this camp is very likely to make the final roster; it’s just a question of who. Will it be Magee, as just mentioned? Or one of the fullbacks? Will the needs in defense mean multiple new faces find themselves on the plane to Brazil in a few months? The new guys have 26 days to make their case.


  1. Hackworth is going to ruin Okugo.

    I understand he has looked good, and at times great, at CB, but the fact is he has played there for like 1 year. And there is a big difference between looking good in a league like MLS and being international caliber at a position.

    This isn’t like the NFL. You can’t drag and drop players to different positions at age 20 or 21. Okugo was a DMid his whole life, impressed youth NT coaches at DMid, and was drafted #6 overall at DMid. He can look as decent as he likes at CB and you can project his skills to CB all you want, but the fact is he is a DMid by trade.

    And once you get to the international level you need players who can draw from years of high quality experience at a position, not players who are still learning a new position.

    • How about Beasley and Evans moves from midfield to starting fullbacks?

      • The fact that those two are our FBs as of right now (thought I seriously doubt and hope no one honestly thinks Evans will/should be our RB going into the WC) speaks more to the dire state of our NT-ready FBs than anything things.

    • Okugo has impressed coaches on different levels while playing BOTH positions. He played both positions with the Generation Adidas squad under Shellas Hyndman (2010) and Peter Vermes (2011) – he was invited to train with SC Freiburg as a result of those GA tours. When asked what he wants to improve, he mentions improving skills at both positions.

      “I understand he has looked good…at CB, but the fact is he has played there for like 1 year.” In 4 years as a professional soccer player, Okugo has played approx. 4900 (regular season) minutes at CB, and 1400 as a midfielder.

      Yes, his preferred position is in front of the backline, but, hear me out, maybe he’s a “natural” fit in BOTH positions. I might be in the minority here, but I could care less where he plays as long as he continues playing well. And he played damn well this year as a CB.

      • Okugo reminds me a lot of Geoff Cameron and Phill Jones, they are very gifted and can play multiple positions all three have played CB, RB, AND CDM at some point and played well in all three. Teams see this versatility as a blessing, players often see it as a curse.

  2. Great article! I don’t think Williams should feel snubbed at all. He does very well with the Union at right back but the national team is a whole different game. I think Shannon would have trouble playing on the National team right now with his quality of skill and decision making. Klinsmann is a good coach he knows what he’s doing.

    • james Lockerbie says:

      I agree with your comments and would like to add that maybe shannon’s ill timed temper may have caught Klinsmann’s eye. Hopefully he will learn to control it. I mean it is awesome to see his competitive drive but a player must be able to keep his cool. Williams is a good player I see him improving and he is excellent with the kids and fans alike

      • Well put James. Yea don’t get me wrong, he’s a vital aspect of the team that we need, but again, playing international is a whole different world.

  3. On the bright side, Pfeffer and Steffen got called up for the U20 camp. On the less bright side, nobody from the Union Academy got called up to the U18 camp.

  4. I think that Okugo, Williams, and Mac may have gotten a look had the Union qualified for the playoffs. There are no “new faces” in the USMNT camp from teams that did not make the playoffs. Major exception is Magee. Wondo, Johnson, Hamid, and Goodson have all been called up under Klinsmann.

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      This might be it. Feilhaber has had lots of chances, for instance, but he’s getting another one because he won MLS Cup.

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